Walking to South Cape Bay

Photograph of coastal cliffs with waves breaking on rocky foreshore.

South Cape Bay lies at the southern tip of Tasmania, bordering on the Southern Ocean. It has views of South East Cape, the most southern point of all. A walking track runs from Cockle Creek to South Cape Bay. This track is one of Tasmania’s Great Short Walks.

Getting there

South Cape Bay lies within the Southwest National Park, so visitors will need a current National Parks Pass.

The road south to Cockle Creek was long and winding. Sections were unsealed, including everything south of Ida Bay. For residents of Hobart, the 148 kilometre distance will take a minimum of two hours’ driving time one way. For anyone farther north, add the time needed to drive into and through Hobart.

Track

The track divided into approximately equal thirds, each approximately 2.5 kilometres long.

The first third began in rainforest. The surface here was level earth with boardwalk across the less hospitable parts. However, it then climbed into dry eucalypts, and became rough and rocky. This was the most uneven part of the track.

The second third of the track passed through Blowhole Valley. A level boardwalk crossed the marshy ground here, making walking fast and easy.

The final third passed through ferns and small trees. Once again, the track surface was earth, with creek crossings on sturdy bridges. The walking was level and easy until the very last climb to the cliffs at South Cape Bay. Here, for a stretch of about 100 metres, tall ferns pushed fronds into the track. These were no trouble to push through, but the fronds were soaked with rain, which they transferred on to any walkers who brushed past. This soaking made the walk back to Cockle Creek significantly less pleasant than the walk out had been.

While the view from the cliffs over South Cape Bay was spectacular, the rain had also made the descent down the cliffs so treacherous that we did not attempt to walk down to sea level.

Plants

The track displayed at least four distinct vegetation types, despite remaining within 60 metres of sea level. While the rainforest ferns, eucalypts and coastal shrubs could be found elsewhere, the marsh through Blowhole Valley was a special part of this walk. While such terrain does appear elsewhere, it must usually be admired from afar. On the South Cape Bay track, the boardwalk through the marsh allowed walkers to take a close look at the marsh without eroding the land or getting feet wet.

Animals

A number of birds and wallabies could be heard during the walk, but only a few were careless enough to be seen.

South Cape Bay

South Cape Bay itself was a worthwhile sight, even from above and in low cloud.

Video

This video shows a few of the creeks along the walk. It ends with views of the waves breaking in South Cape Bay.

Facilities

Road Unsealed
Parking Large
Shelter Yes
Toilets Yes
Latest visit 8th April 2013

Opinions

Walking Stick

The first part of the track was mostly over uneven natural rocks so the going was very slow. Turned back after an hour upon reaching a steep descent but apparently this was just before the boardwalk across Blowhole Valley. Interesting vegetation and birds, but returned absolutely soaking wet from the rain and overarching vegetation.

Ambler

Walked 15 kilometres in 4 hours 53 minutes. Enjoyed the walk out and the views of Blowhole Valley, the creeks and South Cape Bay. Did not enjoy the walk back to Cockle Creek while soaking wet despite wearing a raincoat.

Racewalker

The first section of the track was undulating through forest and an interesting but not fast section. Then it opened onto the Blowhole Valley boardwalk where walking was easy. The final climb to the coast was a nuisance in the wet. Found the track down the cliff too slippery to attempt.

Visited several years previously in dry weather, walked down to the beach and had an easy walk to Lion Rock and back.

Should I visit?

There are places in Tasmania with more accessible beaches, higher cliffs, and denser rainforest. However, the combination of cliffs, capes, foreshore and Southern Ocean at South Cape Bay has a rugged grandeur of its own. Blowhole Valley offers a rare chance to walk through the marsh while staying on boardwalk. Botanists wishing to see all the variety in Tasmania’s vegetation may consider this marsh worth a look even without reaching South Cape Bay.

If you go, plan your visit thoroughly. Pack for all weather conditions. Aim to start walking by 10:30am, and calculate when to start driving from there. If this would mean waking up inconveniently early, book a few days’ accommodation in Dover, Southport or Lune River, or camp right at Cockle Creek. There are enough other sights in the area to justify an extended visit.

If you find yourself at Cockle Creek with a few hours to spare but not enough time to reach South Cape Bay, consider taking the shorter walk to Fishers Point.

References

Parks & Wildlife Service Tasmania – Great Short Walks – South Cape Bay

Parks & Wildlife Service Tasmania – Great Bushwalks – South Coast Track

Parks & Wildlife Service Tasmania – Visiting Reserves – Cockle Creek, Southwest National Park (PDF)

Tastrails – South Cape Bay

All photographs from this walk

Map of this walk

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